EAT ME (504 Adelaide West, at Portland, 416-703-3669) Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pop. Average main $7. Open Monday to Thursday 7 am to 3 pm, Friday 7 am to 4 am, Saturday 8 pm to 4 am. Closed Sunday. Unlicensed. Access: one step at door, another to washrooms. Rating: NNN
Chris Cargill has seen the future, and it involves tortilla shells and refried beans.
"Burritos are going to be the next big thing!" says Eat Me's first-time restaurateur, who's also the manager of the nearby Devil's Martini.
To prove his point, he's taken downtown's greasiest spoon and enlisted executive chef Robert Joseph (the Fifth, Mumbo Jumbo) to create a diner with a difference. Instead of shutting up shop around suppertime as most spoons do, Eat Me rocks till 4 in the morning Friday and Saturday nights. And, yes, there are burritos on the short chalkboard card.
Who says location isn't everything? Just a stumble up the street from Susur and the Spoke Club, Eat Me's primo Clubland digs guarantee it a late-night following of spaced-out hipsters. But if its burritos they're after, they'd be better off at the Boyz.
Not that this Lilliputian luncheonette doesn't have plenty going for it. Anonymous from the avenue, Eat Me's two tiny rooms have been redone in an austere style that makes reference to Josef Hoffman's Weiner Werkstatte. Boxy booths upholstered in shiny red vinyl face black high-backed chairs that recall Charles Rennie Mackintosh, floors are stripped bare, and a shoji-like wooden screen hides a shotgun open kitchen.
The house burger ($7.50 with fries or salad) pays as much attention to detail as does the decor. Although there's no sign on either of our visits of menu-promised grilled onions, mushrooms or peppers, its beefy ground chuck patty comes properly topped with ripe tomato, a solitary raw red onion ring and a handful of mesclun, though some salt, pepper and mayonnaise would not be amiss. For a buck, upgrade with mild melted cheddar or thick rashers of crunchy bacon.
The veggie version ($7 with sides) features a nicely grilled portobello layered with meaty eggplant, zucchini and red peppers, although its advertised roasted garlic seems to have gone AWOL. Skin-on fries serve their purpose, while mandatory mesclun comes dressed with slightly sour complementary balsamic.
These same optional sides escort Eat Me's burritos. Listed in the lineup under "wraps," the eggplant interpretation ($6) is basically the veggie burger in a flour tortilla spread with puréed avocado, while the beef finds nicely grilled fajita-style strips of sirloin mixed with portobello 'shrooms and sour cream ($7.50). However, the breakfast burrito ($6 with home fries) is a bit of a tease, a simple wrap of scrambled egg and a few refried black beans, with none of its touted cheese or chili sauce in evidence. A request for salsa results in a saucer-full of salty Chinese hot sauce. Sigh.
The prosciutto in Penne Prosciutto ($7.95) seems more like roughly chopped Italian sausage than thinly shaved ham but comes in an assertively peppered tomato sauce thick with grilled eggplant.
Here's another one of those woeful Caesar salads ($4.50) knife-cut leaves of outer romaine littered with hamburger-bun croutons and industrial Parmesan, its real bacon shards and cheesy dressing almost compensating for the absence of anchovy.
Soups are a strong suit. One day a smoky tomato cream, another finds a sadly underpowered soupy chili (both $4) with subtle smokiness but little fire, featuring good ground beef, big chunks of seeded tomato and al dente diced carrot, celery and onion. Some bread would be nice.
Only open since Labour Day, Eat Me is still finding its feet. And though it's unlikely that bleary-eyed factory workers scarfing $5 all-day breakfasts at 7 in the morning or blitzed club kids doing the same thing at midnight will notice, being subjected to the resto's random iPod-driven soundtrack a deafening mix of Franz Ferdinand, early-period Madonna, AC/DC and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is like being trapped in a jukebox programmed by a DJ with attention deficit disorder.
Fix that and we'll gladly Eat Me more often.